Although difficulty is subjective when it comes to language learning, many agree that Japanese is among the more challenging ones you can tackle today. In fact, the Foreign Services Institute responsible for training US diplomats in foreign languages categorises it as a highly difficult language for English speakers. They estimate that students will take around 2,200 hours of classes (not including personal study hours) to become fluent in the language.
That said, not every aspect of Japanese is difficult, as there are just as many parts that are easy to grasp. Moreover, getting past the tricky parts is really what makes learning a new language a satisfying and exciting endeavour. If you’re interested in enrolling in a Japanese lesson in Singapore soon, here are the biggest hurdles you can more easily overcome with the help of proper instruction.
1. Japanese uses three different types of scripts or writing methods
Unlike most languages, Japanese does not use a single, letter-based alphabet but three different forms of writing; one is a script borrowed from Chinese and two are syllabaries. A syllabary is a set of written characters representing syllables in words instead of individual letters. The following is a breakdown of these distinct Japanese writing styles.
This syllabary is the most basic writing method comprising symbols that describe a specific syllable. For example, the characters below all represent a specific sound:
Together, they spell out にほんご, which translates to the Japanese language itself and is typically written in kanji as 日本語 in real-life use cases.
Katakana is another syllabary exclusively used for pronouncing loan words from other languages, sound effects, and several other use cases. For example, the German word “arbeit”, meaning part-time job, is converted into a Japanese word via katakana, turning it into アルバイト (あーるびーと) or “arubaito”.
Kanji is Japan’s original writing system, with its characters based on those of their neighbouring country, China. Japan. As such, kanji characters are often almost identical to their Chinese counterparts. Given that there are over 2,000 different kanji characters, it is notorious for being one of, if not the most challenging, part of Japanese. Each kanji having several different readings only adds to the confusion for many students. Even so, anyone can master kanji with enough time and practice, so it’s important to take things one step at a time when learning this part of Japanese.
Although tackling a slew of different writing styles can be daunting, learning all these forms is more than doable. It is best to start with the syllabaries first and gradually build up your kanji as you progress.
For those already used to English and its peculiar grammar rules, Japanese grammar may take some time to get used to. Although the grammar for both languages is challenging from a technical perspective, there is one aspect of Japanese grammar that is more complicated than English: particles.
Particles are one-syllable building blocks that immediately follow nouns, verbs, and adjectives, modifying them to indicate the role of that particular word in the sentence. These include the subject and object in sentences, the motion or direction of action, questions, and more.
Particles always modify the word that comes before them and are rarely used at the end of sentences. Another curveball when using particles is that you can often leave them out in casual speech, but only when the words they modify can be inferred by the current context.
Wrapping your head around the most common particles will be simple enough. Still, to understand and use more advanced grammar concepts, you must become familiar with many other particles. Nonetheless, becoming adept at using the correct particle can be challenging initially, but it gets easier with study and practice.
3. Japanese is typically spoken quickly
Japanese is the quickest-spoken language in the world, according to a 2015 study. Since English is spoken much slower, language learners may have trouble understanding spoken Japanese if they are not adept at swift listening comprehension. Moreover, despite Japanese sentences generally having low information density, it may still take a lot of syllables to convey a simple message. But learners can easily overcome this hurdle with time and constant speech practice with a Japanese instructor.
Japanese is a more demanding language to learn, but it’s not all difficult, as it also has its fair share of easy aspects that learners can grasp in a snap. If you want to learn Japanese in Singapore and are keen on breezing through its trickiest hurdles, consider signing up for a Japanese class in Singapore! At Japanese Explorer, our effective and personalised instruction combined with native Japanese teachers makes for a perfect combination that lets you attain fluency in record time.
Contact us to learn more and get started with your Japanese course in Singapore today!